Belgium urges stiff punishment for sex abuse bishop

Fri Apr 15, 2011 11:52am EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Belgium's justice minister urged the Vatican on Friday to impose stiff punishment on a disgraced Catholic bishop who denies being a pedophile despite admitting to sexually abusing two of his own nephews.

Stefaan de Clerck spoke out amid a media uproar after former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe defended himself on television by saying the abuse he committed was only "superficial."

Vangheluwe, who quit his post and went into hiding a year ago after admitting to molesting a nephew, confessed in the interview on Thursday evening that he had molested a second one.

He left Belgium last week under Vatican orders to seek "spiritual and psychological treatment" abroad and Belgian media say he is now in a French monastery. The Vatican has said the final decision on disciplining him lies with Pope Benedict.

"The Church must take up this case and see what sanction it should impose. It should be much more severe and much more complete than what has been said up until now," De Clerck, a Christian Democrat, told RTL radio.

"We expect the Church to punish him," he said. "They told him to leave the country -- that was also to shut him up. Making comments trying to minimize what happened is unacceptable."


The Vatican has been reluctant to impose stiff punishments on bishops found guilty of covering up sexual abuse of youths by priests under their authority.   Continued...

<p>A video grab shows former Belgium's Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe during an interview with Belgian television channel VT4 late on Thursday April 14, 2011. REUTERS/VT4</p>